American Laser Clinics Part 1: Armed guards & threats.

This series of posts details how it came to be that American Laser Clinics hired an armed guard to stand in a physicians waiting room and prevent him from seeing his own patients.

While this took place years ago, there are still lessons to be learned.

In November of 2005 I was contacted by Dr. Vaugn Moody,  the medical director of an American Laser Center in Draper, Utah. (Yep. The same ALC that's running the laser hair removal infomercials.) Dr. Moody had been the medical director for ALC and had built out a new clinic in Draper. ALC had moved with him and were renting 4 treatment rooms and a front desk area. ALC had a staff of about six young women (early 20's) who were generally autonomous. About medical spa franchises.

Dr. Moody called and asked to meet and discuss the possibility of leaving American Laser Clinics and associating in some way with Surface.

According to Dr. Moody, American Laser Clinics was constantly late paying him for overseeing their operations and operating far outside the acceptable norms of ethics and acceptable medical standards. He was unhappy with a long laundry list.

  • American Laser Clinics was initiating IPL fotofacials without adequate or proper training for their staff.
  • The ALC technicians were being hired, given an hour or so of training from the other technicians and then performing treatments.
  • Dr Moody, the medical director, was entirely removed from any interaction with patients. The staff gossip was that the ALC staff had been told never to referr a patient to Dr. Moody's clinic since he'd try to 'steal them'.
  • Patients were being diagnosed and treated without being seen by anyone other than a technician with no medical licensure or training. 

Dr. Moody twas being sued by a patient who had been burned from a bikini line hair removal. The most interesting thing about this was not the fact that they had burned someone but that the burns showed the treatment pattern and that it was obvious that they had intentionally not treated the entire area but were 'skipping' ever other pulse. During later conversations with staff members they represented to me that they were actually trained to do that to save time.

The patient suing Dr. Moody (and American Laser Clinics) had been treated by a new hire who, without any supervison, had used the IPL Fotofacial head rather than the hair removal. Additonally she'd turned the device up. The result was a perfectly detailed burn that ran from her navel down to her pubis and resembling a zipper with that skipped pattern. The patient, who was supposedly a swim suit model heading for Las Vegas, was not happy. And rightly so.

Dr. Moody also told me that ALC staff treated a number of patients after he told them specifically not to because the laser was not resetting itself correctly and needed to be serviced. The result. Burns again. 

This litany of horrors went on and on. The staffs of both clinics were almost openly hostile. The situation was unmanagable and getting more so.

I should insert here that Dr. Moody went to medical school with one of our physicians and there was some pressure from that quarter to help him out. There was also the idea of converting his entire clinic to a Surface clinic which was Dr. Moodys positon from the start.

I ended up having a number of meetings with Dr. Moody. The situation was bleek but after a few weeks of dinners and a number of long conversations I agreed to convert his clinic to a Surface locaton after he disentangled himself from American Laser Clinics.

Of course there were a few problems. First, Dr. Moody claimed that he was afraid that ALC would not only retaliate by suing him, but that he might be in physical danger from them. He constantly spoke of ALC being run by 'mobsters'. At first I thought this was kind of funny.

Dr. Moody sent a letter to ALC that basically said that he would not sign a lease at that location and that they had 30 days to find another location. I saw and read the letter before it was sent and there were some other notes in there about late payment and such but that was the gist of it. (There was a letter of intent at the time but no lease so Dr. Moody was fine there.)

ALC did not go quietly into the night. 

Rick Frisk, who I think is a vice-president, was one of the founders of American Laser Clinics and had know Dr. Moody for a long time, called. Dr. Moody described the call to me as a lot of yelling and threats. Now I'm aware that people often exaggerate to make a point. But in this case I was there during a number of the calls and could hear the speaker on the other end. (Dr. Moody also recorded at least one of these calls and possibly more with a little recording device he'd bought at Radio Shack.)  I could hear some of what was said and listened to the recorded converstaton that Dr. Moody provided to me. I've never heard or seen anything quite as nasty. Rick's boss, the President of American Laser Clinics (I forget his name as I write this) threatened to spend his last cent to 'break' Dr. Moody among a long list of profanity. There were any number of these calls. The one's I was privy to were at least ten minutes long.

What had really upset Rick and the ALC gang was that Dr. Moody had spent long hours at night copying all of their patient records. Now as the medical director he actually had a right to access these records but ALC was not happy with having their entire database of clients copied by someone who was kicking them out and obviously had designs on their business. Dr. Moody now had copies of every patient contact sheet that ALC had at the clinic. I can't remember exactly how many there were but it was an entire wall full and had taken at least 30 hours of work at night to copy.  

Then the shit really hit the fan.

American Laser Clinics hired an armed guard to protect themselves, their records, and their patients, from Dr. Moody.

The picture at the top of this post is of that guard standing in the front of Dr. Moodys clinic. I took the photo. It's difficult to see but the guard actually had a gun on his hip. It was crazy. The guard had been informed that Dr. Moody was a threat to the patients and staff and he took his posting seriously. Any time that Dr. Moody would walk towards his office (where I was standing and where the picture was taken from) the guard would run down the hall and confront him to prevent him from whatever.

All the while American Laser Clinics is treating patients. That woman in the photo is a patient filling out paperwork.

Let me reiterate:

  • American Laser Clinics is performing medical treatments on patients while an armed guard prevents the physician responsible for their care from seeing them.

I thought I'd seen it all but I guess not. The ALC staff members had been instructed to have no contact with any of other clinic staff and they were telling patients that the guy with the gun was just waiting for someone to get of work or some such nonsense. I would certainly love to have been privy to what the patients were thinking. There were a lot of angry looks from the ALC girls.

By the second day even I'd had enough. 

I called a few contacts I have at the local news and had a camera crew sent out. At the same time Dr. Moody called Utah's Department of Licensure and complained to them about these 'illegal' treatments going on inside his clinic while the guards were there. (They hadn't heard of this before either.)

It was priceless watching the film crew show up. Dr. Moody, who used to be an Elvis impersonator, escorted the camera right up front and started interviewing the guard and the ALC staff. I guess he felt safe enought that the guard wouldn't shoot him in front of the TV camera. The guard went all shades of red. It was somewhat funny but I felt really bad for the entire ALC crew. They were scrambling for cell phones like they were drowning and their cell phones were reserve air tanks. The poor security guard was obviously asking his boss for directions. He didn't know if he should plug'em all or run.

Dr. Moody spent 20 minutes interviewing the ALC staff asking them who their medical director, who's clinic it is, and why there's a guy with a gun there. 

Then the inspector from DOPL showed up. (I have photos of this entire phase.)

The inspector was really a take charge kind of guy. The TV cameras didn't even phase him.

Then two police cars and the security guards company owner show up.

Let me set the stage again: We have an Elvis impersonator with a TV crew, the State, the Cops, Dr. Moodys staff, and the ALC staff.... and patients coming in for laser hair removal. 

 I have to say that the State inspector and the cops were really good. The first thing that the cops did was run the security guards off the property as soon as they determined who owned it. They left in a hurry. ALC was not as fortunate.

The State shut them down on the spot.

They reopened the next day and treated a number of patient without any medical supervison (Dr. Moody took photos of all of this) but the State was on to them and they closed for a few more days while they scrambled. They ended up hiring a PA to literally sit in the waiting area all day. They met the deadline and moved back to their previous location.

But the saga is not yet over.

The patient who was burned sued ALC and Dr. Moody making them co-defendants.

ALC sued Dr. Moody for breech of contract claiming that they had a lease (which they did not).

During these procedures Dr. Moody was ordered to turn over all the American Laser Centers patient records that he had copied. He turned over a few few hundred but the vast majority were never turned over. I don't know specifically what the order stated but every single ALC record was copied and then entered into the front desk computer database with emails and contact info.

So, that's how it happened. Any thoughts?